Hello from Greylake, West Sedgemoor and Swell Wood, where we have been basking in the late spring sunshine this week, well mostly anyway. I managed to get stuck down here without any of my summer clothes when lockdown was imposed, so I did some emergency online shopping last week for some lightweight work trousers and I have been very grateful for them so far. Hopefully you all have sensible clothes with you and are therefore enjoying the lovely weather.
You may have noticed we opened our reserve at Ham Wall yesterday, although the visitor centre, toilets and hides remain closed for now. If you do choose to visit, please observe social distancing rules and take care of yourselves and others. Greylake and Swell Wood are still closed as each reserve has different considerations for opening and we only want to do so when it is safe for all, so please bear with us while we continue to work on getting ready to open.
I’ll start with some very good news. As I predicted, the pied wagtail nest fledged on Monday. I spotted four chicks on the roof of one of the outbuildings on Monday evening, being regularly fed by both adults. I was already in my pyjamas, so I didn’t run out to get a photo and by the morning, they’d disappeared, so no pictures for you I’m afraid. I’ve seen the adults a couple of times since then but they’ve mostly been absent so they’ve obviously started to move away from the nest site.
The great tits have also fledged, although I didn't see them go. I only know they've gone because I spent a short time outside the nest and couldn't hear any noise, now did the parents return. The blue tits are still in the box, but they can't have much longer to go now. The parents are in and out every few minutes trying to keep up with their appetites and they look a bit raggedy by now. I'm sure they'll be gone within a couple of days.
The swallows have really grown in the last week. I went out to check on them this morning and found this youngster sitting on the pipe below the nest. I managed to take a photo but then it startled and flew off. Its flight was a bit wobbly and it circled the yard, accompanied by one of the adults before returning to the nest (I'd moved away). From what I've been told, we can expect a few days of them hanging around like this, or semi-fledging, before they leave for good. Look out on social media this week for updates as we watch them take their first flights into the world.
Staying with birds, I saw this large group of nineteen cranes on Tuesday morning. These will be birds that are too young to breed, or possibly those that attempted and failed to nest this year. We do have three, or possibly four pairs that have at least one chick, so that’s positive. Each chick that fledges successfully adds to the population, which is steadily growing. Check out the project website for more details: www.thegreatcraneproject.org.uk.
Moving on to other creatures now, I’ve had some pretty great sightings over the last week. It started on my afternoon walk last Sunday, as I came out of the barn, I noticed a stoat running along the drove. I’ve only seen one before, and that was at a much greater distance, so I was very pleased.
Then on Monday, I was up at Swell Wood looking for cranes, when a brightly coloured insect landed on the bench beside me. I took a picture but had no idea what it was. When I got home, I looked it up and found it was a cranefly called ctenophore pectinicornis. I haven’t been able to find a great deal of information about it but it is found in broadleaved ancient woodland where the larvae feed on dead wood. From what I could gather, it is widespread across the country but quite scarce. One website called it ‘nationally notable’, but I’m not sure of its official status, or if it even has one. If anyone has any more info, I’d be pleased to hear it.
And then on Wednesday I was doing a full site check up at Swell Wood and nearly stepped on this slow worm. It must have heard me coming and stopped moving, and it looked much like a stick. Anyway, it stayed very still, allowing me to get a couple of pictures before I left it in peace.
I don't know whether its because I'm working on a wetland site this year, or because their are more than usual, but dragonflies and damselflies seem to be everywhere. I took a few pictures on a site check of Greylake this week. The most abundant seem to be the blue damselflies. There are several very similar species of blue damselfly, distinguished mostly by different markings on their second abdominal segment, which is of course very hard to see, even with a photo. I thought at first that this was probably a common blue damselfly, but on closer inspection, I'm wondering if it is a variable damselfly, which is much rarer. I will seek confirmation of this and let you know next week, or if anyone knows, I'd be happy to hear from you.
Then I found this female scarce chaser, which is easily identified by the red body with the black markings on the abdomen, followed by the male scarce chaser, which can be distinguished from similar species by its blue eyes. Its really good to see that we seem to be gaining a population as they are near threatened in Britain although their population is stable and possibly expanding.
Last week someone asked about the herons at Swell Wood, so I took a few minutes on Wednesday to have a look and see what they were up to. It’s hard to see most of them now, with the canopy in full leaf, but you can certainly hear them. They sound a bit like a cross between a dinosaur and a wild pig (in my opinion anyway). From what I could tell, most of the noise was the youngsters begging for food. I saw one poor adult being accosted by its two almost fully grown chicks. I expect some of the earlier hatchers (is that a real words?) will have fledged already and the rest won’t be long now. Soon the treetops will fall silent once more.
That’s all the news from here. As always, stay well, keep your spirits up and come back next week for another update.
P.S. All photos taken by me at home, on exercise or during essential work
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